Let’s get this out in the open before we go any further: I’m British, so naturally I know nothing about NASCAR racing. All I know is that it’s popular in some parts of America, and you can only turn left. That’s it. Nothing else. So before I started this review I took to Wikipedia – the knowledge base of everyone born after 1990 – and learned what I could. I even watched a few videos on YouTube. However, I’m by no means an expert on the sport and if you asked me to name any popular NASCAR driver I’d be at a loss. Still, I liked the game, so that’s something.
NASCAR Heat 2 is, as you’ve already guessed, a NASCAR racing game. If you’re reading this review then you’re most likely interested in the motor sport and don’t need an introduction. If you do, just look back on the above paragraph or read the next 15 words: you drive a car around a track many times, and you can only turn left. That’s not entirely true, though, as I’ve learned with my time playing NASCAR Heat 2. It’s actually a lot more tactical than I thought it would be.
You’ve got a few different modes to choose from with the standard one-off races for a quick fix, to the lengthy Career mode. This is where I spent the majority of my time with NASCAR Heat 2. I wanted to live the American dream of starting from the bottom and working my way to the top. I never made it to the top, but I reckon I did alright for a Brit.
Your story starts with you racing as a nobody until you get offers from real-life racing teams. From here you’ll progress and work your way up the divisions while pissing off other drivers. No, really, you’ll get “beef” with some other drivers if you’re a dick on the race track. NASCAR doesn’t like it when drivers hit into each other, even more so when it’s clearly a deliberate maneuver to cause a pile up. You’ll see messages on the in-game social media that so-and-so is mad at you, while you’ll also get the odd compliment if you drive like a pro. I rarely saw these messages… I was a dick 99% of the time. Oops.
Racing. Lots of racing. That’s the essence of NASCAR Heat 2’s Career mode. Well, it’s what you’d expect, isn’t it? However, you’ll soon find it a little repetitive, or at least more so than you’d expect from a sport that revolves around racing in a bloody circle. Sorry, I still can’t get over it. I’ll try and rein it in from here on out.
Hitting the tracks as part of a team is great as you’ve got a purpose: win, earn cash, gain fame as a great NASCAR driver. Simples. But it does get samey when you’re racing the same tracks over and over and over and – you get what I mean. Races can be many laps long (this ain’t Mario Kart, kids) and if you’re having a long session with the game, it can start to lose its appeal. Or at least for me, a newbie to the NASCAR scene.
What will keep you coming back is the gameplay. The graphics aren’t anything to write home about, though they’re decent enough, but the gameplay is what matters and NASCAR Heat 2 delivers.
I was a little taken back by just how difficult it seemed at first (I jumped in without having a go on Easy…) but after going back and doing a few test laps I soon had a feel for the game. I imagined it’d be like an arcade racer. I imagined wrong. The developers are going for a sim-like experience with NASCAR Heat 2, and if you’re hardcore enough to turn off the assists and play with strong A.I opponents, I imagine you’ll get a decent challenge out of it. Unfortunately I am not capable of such a feat, so I started off playing the game on the easier settings. This turned out to be a mistake.
If you like a challenge, you’ll only use the easy mode to get a grip of the controls and handling before moving up to the more difficult A.I with a couple of the assists turned off. Otherwise you’ll find yourself winning every race with no gratification. It’s like playing against a toddler, basically, and there’s no glory in beating a kid.
Where most other driving games demand you come first place or die in a puddle of your own shame, NASCAR Heat 2 doesn’t. You need to look at the race lineup and set yourself a target. I’d often just be happy to finish a race, but after a while I was able to gauge what the machine I’m handling is capable of, and what my own strengths are and set my sights on a reasonable finishing position. Don’t expect to win every race, my dears, you will be sorely disappointed. (My strengths are smashing other cars like a dick. I hope you’ll show a bit more tact when you play the game.)
The difficulty really is all in the A.I. I’m used to shoddy opponents in standard racers so I wasn’t ready for the ballsy moves being played out in front of me. I’d have opponents blocking me (I’d ram them anyway, but fair effort on their part), or slipping their way through gaps with the skill and technique that only comes from Alabama-born NASCAR gods. I tried to play the game as a NASCAR fan would, and I wound up finishing very far down the rankings. Yes, I’m shit at the game. Get over it.
While the Career mode is deep enough, there’s more to NASCAR Heat 2 than just going through the motions. You’ve got split-screen multiplayer (which I did not have the chance to test) as well as the cracking Challenges. These alone could give you hours of gameplay as you attempt to complete each of them. To their credit, some are downright addictive, while others are a little more so-so. Still, a bit of variety helps.
On the technical front you’re look at a very polished game. It might not be a looker and it is certainly a step behind the big racers of this generation, but it gets the job done and I reckon NASCAR fans will have no problem with the presentation of the tracks, cars and trucks. I’m also happy to report that I came across no bugs. Not a single one. Nada. Though I suppose it’s possible I just didn’t notice them, but if that’s the case then fair play anyway as it never hampered my enjoyment of the game.
All in all, for my first experience with NASCAR racing, I think NASCAR Heat 2 has done a decent job. The racing is decent with some proper thrilling moments. The Career mode is expansive, if a little long-winded and a bit grindy, and the Challenges are exceptionally well done. Well done, Monster Games, you’ve got this tea drinker interested in NASCAR racing. Now excuse me while I pin up my new stars and stripes flag.
NASCAR Heat 2 PS4 Review
NASCAR Heat 2 brings the sport into the spotlight unlike any other has done before it. If you're a hardcore NASCAR fan then you'll be more than satisfied with the challenge being offered. Just don't play on easy and you'll be gripping the controller for dear life on every left turn.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.